Internships prepare students to be workforce-ready


At the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, sociology student Lilia Martinez spent her semester organizing community events and recruiting local union members to advocate for labor rights. Martinez, an aspiring labor activist and politician, found her passions ignited by the work.   

“I learned how to inform my community of the fight for equal representation in every workforce,” she said.  

The experience was the perfect launchpad for her aspirations as a leader of the labor movement, and exactly what she hoped for when she signed up for the College of Liberal Arts’ special Labor & Social Justice Internship section.  

The course was a vanguard to the CLA Internship Program’s effort to provide holistic internship experiences and close opportunity gaps for underserved students. Themed class sections featured a public-good animus and leveraged the expertise of some of CSULB’s most dedicated faculty mentors.   

Dr. Jake Wilson, professor of sociology, labor studies and social justice scholar, author, and activist, brought his considerable academic background and network of labor organizations to curate the Labor & Social Justice Internship experience.   

Dr. Kim Kelly, associate professor of human development, and a member of the President’s Sustainability Commission, facilitated a Sustainability & Environmental Justice-themed course. With placements at organizations like Grades of Green Inc., OC Habitats, and Long Beach Organic, students got their hands dirty developing environmental justice resources, promoting an organics recycling bill (AB 1826) and connecting outdoor gardening with mental health.  

The Internship Program’s focus on equity issues emblazons the CLA’s effort to expand internship equity for all students. The college leverages partnerships with campus departments and over 230 organizations in Los Angeles and Orange counties to guarantee quality and even paid placements, regardless of a students’ connections or experience within their chosen industries. Students benefit from the mentorship of experts like Dr. Wilson, Dr. Kelly, and community leaders, and have access to a wide selection of professional development workshops and resources. 

The most transformative component, and a continual goal for the CLA Internship Program, is financial compensation —– an innovation that would be made possible by private subsidization. “We don’t want students to choose between an internship and income,” Associate Dean Deborah Thien said. 

By building a holistic internship experience –— guaranteed placements, expert mentorship, curated resources, and compensation —– CSULB, its partner organizations, and its supporters empower students of all backgrounds to drive tomorrow’s workforce in their own communities.